A place of wonder
By Janna Odenthal Post-Tribune correspondent August 30, 2012 12:14PM
Several children with special needs, plus their siblings, parents and friends, gather for activities at Club Wonder’s Social Group. | Photo provided
What: Club Wonder Social Group
Where: Liberty Bible Church, 824 N. Calumet Ave., Chesterton
When: 4-6 p.m. the first and third Fridays each month
Cost: Free, but Club Wonder is seeking financial partners to help fund the program. Tax-deductible donations can be sent to Opportunity Enterprises, Club Wonder, 2801 Evans Ave., Valparaiso, 46838.
More information: Call Kristin Erdei, 309-7187
Updated: October 1, 2012 5:13PM
Children and teens with special needs face many challenges, including bullying and loneliness. Although they want to “fit in” with others, they often struggle to socialize and, instead, find themselves sitting alone.
Several parents decided to make a difference by starting the Club Wonder Social Group. One activity, a social group, provides a fun, accepting atmosphere for children and teens with special needs, plus their siblings and friends.
Club Wonder founder Kristin Erdei said children in the social group are creating friendships, and parents are networking, filling the lonely, isolating void. She said the group is becoming “wildly popular.”
Twice monthly, teens and ’tweens gather in a room with a café atmosphere. While some play board games, foosball or visit with one another, others play dodge ball, soccer or other sports in an adjacent gym.
Colleen Reister, 11, of South Haven drew pictures with a friend during a recent gathering.
“I love coming here; I love that there’s a nice park, and I like the people here,” Colleen said. “Some people I know, and some I get to meet. I like to play games and run around.”
Lynn Mayden of Valparaiso brings her daughter, Lauren, 11, and son, Sean, 9. She said she has difficulty finding social activities her children can attend.
“It’s fun; I like the free activities. I like the variety. They love the cooking,” said Mayden. “They love how activities are optional, and we can adapt when the kids have different ideas.”
When the younger children arrive, they partake in free play time with toys, books and other items. Later, a group activity could include a craft, music or something else Afterward, they go to an enclosed playground or indoor play land.
River Hoyns-Saylor, 6, of Valparaiso attends Club Wonder with his sister, Raven, 5.
“At first, I was nervous, but then I got brave; I like coming here,” River said. “I like to play with the cars and the ball. I made a lot of friends here; it’s good.”
His mother, Deborah Hoyns, said she benefits from watching her children have fun, and networking with other parents.
“It’s been really great to have a place where the kids and parents can all get together,” she said. “The kids really enjoy it, and it gives us a chance to talk with parents who go through the same things we do.”